The Church Leader's Answer Book: A Reference Guide for Effective Ministry

The Church Leader's Answer Book: A Reference Guide for Effective Ministry


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The Church Leader's Answer Book: A Reference Guide for Effective Ministry by Christianity Today

Loaded with tips, guidelines, and proven wisdom from America's most effective church leaders, The Church Leader's Answer Book is an informative, one-stop reference guide. It offers battle-tested advice on nearly every topic imaginable, from church furnishings to staff meetings. The Church Leader's Answer Book will equip and empower pastors, staff, and volunteeer church leaders to efficiently handle all the important day-to-day issues and free them to devote more time to the heart of their ministry. Includes sidebars, callouts, charts, and graphs; case studies and checkups for ministry assessment; interviews with experienced and successful church leaders; and an extensive resource list.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414303543
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 11/28/2006
Pages: 704
Product dimensions: 7.69(w) x 9.44(h) x 1.56(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Church Leader's Answer Book

A Reference Guide for Effective Ministry
By Phyllis TenElshof

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today International
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4143-0354-8

Chapter One

Church Management


> The Pastor's Call to Administer / 003

> Overcoming Overload / 004

> Time-Management Strategies / 005

> How to Tame the To-Do List / 007

> Tools for Personal Organization / 008

> Filing for Quick Retrieval / 009

> Tips for Maintaining Files / 010

> Reading Essentials for the Unorganized / 011

> How to Know When It's Time to Delegate / 011

> Do You Need a Church Administrator? / 012

> Distributing the Load / 013

> The Ministry of Interruptions / 014

THE PASTOR'S CALL TO ADMINISTER by Robert H. Welch, dean of the School of Educational Ministries and professor of Church Administration at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas

"Lord, we've got a problem. I thought you called me into ministry to reach the hurting and to care for the spiritual and physical needs of the people you would lead my way. You never mentioned budgets, committees, carpets, or banquets. I spend more time making decisions about who gets the van, who should repair the boiler, and where we should buy Sunday-school literature than I do preparing mysermon."

If you have ever shared these sentiments, you may find it helpful to take a fresh look at the role of administration in your ministry. The few times the word administration appears in the New Testament, it is translated from a Greek word that means "helmsman." The helmsman was indispensable to a ship, for without his direction, the vessel was virtually helpless. The ship could have great ballast, a keel for stability, and a strong sail for power, but without the helmsman's hand on the tiller, the boat would be tossed about by wind and wave.

Within the word administration is the word minister. We know who ministers are, whether we call them pastors, priests, elders, or clergy, but what ministers do is another matter. A minister's role is less clearly defined than we might wish, and this can frustrate or anger pastors. Anger can lead to low morale and job dissatisfaction, which in turn may result in burnout or forced termination.

The roles of a pastor can be divided into two groups: traditional and contemporary.

1. Traditional roles

Preparing and delivering sermons

Leading worship

Administering sacraments

Officiating in church rites (weddings, funerals, etc.)

Visiting the sick, counseling, and caring for the hurting

Biblical teaching and new-convert training

2. Contemporary roles

Managing and overseeing a church or parish

Strategizing, planning, and leading church programs and activities

Developing a budget and managing finances

Overseeing maintenance of the church facility

Networking with outside church organizations

Recruiting, motivating, and training staff and church leaders

Ask ministers to name factors that contribute the most toward an effective church, and they will typically respond with items from the first list. Less often they will mention administrative and organizational responsibilities. Yet when asked to name the roles that take up most of their time, pastors usually mention administration and organization. Most ministers estimate that 50 to 60 percent of their week is taken up in administrative matters.

What Others Expect

In addition to their personal expectations for their roles in ministry, pastors encounter the expectations of other clergy (denominational officers, for instance) and of people in their congregations.

Unrealistic and unclear expectations from others are the greatest sources of role conflict for most pastors. That is why I tell students or colleagues about to take a ministry position to make sure that a clearly understood job description is in place. Such a job description should identify the ministry tasks to be accomplished, including the administrative chores that go with the job. It should also clarify the top priorities of the position, define who will help a leader make decisions, and explain what will happen if the job proves to be too complex.

The expectations of church members are often the greatest challenges for a pastor. Conflict is almost certain when any of the following circumstances apply:

A pastor's tasks are not clearly stated, though parishioners have expectations

Pastors and/or parishioners fail to accept the pastor as an executive leader

A pastor must focus energy on pleasing a centralized, denominational hierarchy at the expense of meeting congregational expectations

What It Takes to Survive

Several years ago, Christianity Today discussed the sudden rise in forced terminations of pastors in a major denomination. The article attributed many of these cases to burnout or to conflicts between ministers and their congregations about administrative expectations. The article noted that the better a minister's administrative and organizational skills, the less likely it was that he or she would be terminated. Ministerial survival depends upon the ability to develop leaders, build support, and achieve a consensus of church goals, norms, and values. All of these are administrative functions.

In this chapter, you will find many helpful ideas for making the administration of your ministry more effective and enjoyable.

OVERCOMING OVERLOAD by Dale Burke, pastor of First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California

Every leader must learn the art of juggling. By grouping all my activities into four major categories and setting aside time for each one, I keep my work balanced with my family time and my spiritual life. Fewer things get dropped.

My four R's for overcoming overload are rest time, results time, response time, and refocus time.

When a juggler gets into a rhythm, he stays with it for a while, concentrating on his routine. He would never think of taking a phone call or checking his e-mail while flipping knives. Similarly, I focus on one objective at a time, allowing enough time to do it well. I plan my week in large chunks of time-full-day or half-day units-each devoted to one of the four R's. When I try to do more than one R in a block of time, I get frustrated. My stress level goes up, and my productivity goes down.

So when I rest, I truly rest. When I'm in results time, I don't let distractions intrude. When I'm in response time, I give myself away as a humble servant. And when I refocus, I take time to listen to God, reflect, and rethink plans for the future.

The key is to separate the four categories, then keep them separate.

Rest Time

In rest time, I focus on my health, especially in my spiritual life, marriage, and family. God built into creation a universal need for rest, and he commands us to set aside one day a week for it. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work" (Exodus 20:8-10). God designed all creation around the principle of Sabbath rest. We are healthier and more productive when we don't work 24-7.

During rest time, I do absolutely nothing related to the job. No phone calls, no e-mail, no jobrelated reading, no quick stops at the church "just to check on one thing."

The congregations I have served have ranged in size from a twenty-eight-member church plant to my current church of more than five thousand. In each setting, one of my best disciplines was taking Mondays as a Sabbath rest for my wife and me. That has kept me sane and happy under the pressures of ministry. I dedicate one day a week to refreshing my soul and my marriage, and I've never regretted the investment.

Results Time

Results time is dedicated to doing "main things." Priorities may change as a church grows, job descriptions change, or God begins new things, but whatever the main things are at a given time, they are defined by three characteristics:

1. They are mission critical. A main task is essential to the health and growth of the ministry. It must be done well if the mission is to move forward.

2. They have top priority. Though a church's focus will change over time, its leaders must prayerfully set priorities and have them approved.

3. They grow out of unique abilities. Over time, I have reduced the scope of my responsibilities to reflect my unique abilities. Where God-given gifts, passions, and experiences converge, a leader finds his or her unique ability zone.

When we structure our schedule around main things and give them our best effort, we produce our best work. Apart from an occasional crisis, we have no excuse for pushing main things into our least-productive times. For me, sermon preparation is a main thing, so I take most of Wednesday, Thursday morning, and Friday morning for prayer, study, and preparation time. Sermon preparation is blocked out on my schedule every week for now and forevermore, amen.

Dedicating large chunks of time to this main thing allows me to be more productive during other times of the week. I don't stress out about my sermon on Tuesday when I'm busy with meetings and administrative details because I know that Wednesday is coming.

Response Time

Response time is for cleanup and follow-up. These things are important, but not critical to the church's mission. As a servant leader, I realize that the people I serve have their own agendas and their own needs. I want to be responsive to them, but I must also protect my rest and results times.

In ministry, unexpected things happen. We may be tempted to pick up little bits of debris here and there, but if we sweep everything together into larger piles and deal with them in good-size blocks of response time, we'll knock out the work more efficiently. I set aside three afternoons per week for responding to e-mail, voice mail, staff issues, counseling, and other work that flows from the well of ministry.

Serving the needs of others is important. Meeting those needs, however, is not a leader's main thing. It is important that we not allow the needs of others to control our times of rest, results, and refocusing. If we first set aside blocks of uninterrupted time for rest and results, we can respond joyfully to other people's needs.

Refocusing Time

In refocusing, we take time to assess, adjust, and plan for the future. Life and leadership are constantly changing. Even if our organizations appear stable, the world around us is in flux. When our priorities shift, we learn to refine our unique abilities. If we experience a tough month, we must refocus our plans for rest, results, and response.

Refocusing does not mean completely changing direction. It means taking the opportunity to make the fine adjustments needed to keep life in balance. It asks, "Am I getting the rest and results time I need for personal health and the advance of the mission? If not, what changes should I make?"

When I break from my routine to reflection my ministry, I get fresh insight for maintaining the elusive equilibrium of servant leadership. To provide adequate time and prayer for the small and the sweeping changes that God wants me to make, I find it necessary to refocus on different segments of my life at different times. I use three types of refocus time:

1. Weekly refocus time. Refocusing should be done at the beginning or end of each week. Even a few hours of refocus time per week vastly improve the future. We need to ask ourselves honestly, "So, how is it going, really?" We must also review the other R's, asking, "Am I resting as I should? Am I maintaining my marriage and family to the glory of God? Am I providing prime time for my main thing? Am I responding with a servant's heart to those who need me?"

2. Monthly refocus time. Our staff members take a half day every month to get away from the office. They can go to the beach or the park with a lawn chair, a yellow tablet, and their ministry plan. "Reflect, dream, listen to God, and refocus," I tell them. "Come back with some fresh goals and adjustments to your priorities." It really works!

3. Yearly refocus time. Some pastors schedule an annual retreat for sermon planning or spiritual refreshment. I recommend dividing such retreats into three parts: (1) working on main things, (2) personal growth and enrichment, and (3) refreshing your relationship with your spouse.

HOW TO TAME THE TO-DO LIST by Grant McDowell, pastor of Leduc Alliance Church in Millet, Alberta

When our staff of two met for a long-term planning and goals review, my colleague was visibly stressed. "My whole life is church," she said. "I'm drained by ministry. I want to be able to go home without thinking about work all the time."

We talked about delegating some of her duties, but she was already doing that. When I asked about her schedule, she produced a to-do list with sixty-four items on it. No wonder she felt pressured! Her list included everything from meetings and telephone calls to recruiting ministry leaders and revising ministry positions. With a little help, she realized that more of her duties could be delegated, but that still left an intimidating list.

Eventually, we arrived at a simple two-step process she could use for keeping her priorities straight and her workload in perspective. She focused on five priorities and sorted items into manageable blocks.

Focus on Five Priorities

The cluttered pages of my colleague's planner were self-defeating. I suggested she choose no more than five things from her big list of sixtyfour and write them on a clean page in her daily calendar.

To determine which five to choose, she first evaluated deadlines, beginning with the most urgent. She asked what needed to be done by tomorrow, then by Sunday. Next she asked, "What steps can I take to make visible progress toward long-range goals?" By narrowing her focus, she discovered that many tasks were less urgent than she had thought.

After she chose five items, we established a rule: She had to finish all five tasks before she could add a sixth one. Then she could choose up to five more. We made two exceptions to this rule. On Fridays, if she had time, she could choose one more task for the day. And if something on the big list unexpectedly needed immediate attention, it could replace one of the five already chosen. The replaced item then returned to the big list.

In this way, she controlled the pressure of too many things to do and gained a sense of accomplishment.

Sort Items into Manageable Blocks

My colleague also needed to remove the clutter from her monthly calendar. Too many little squares were overflowing with writing. First, we decided that she would only record evening appointments in her planner. She would write other appointments in a day calendar, where they were visible alongside her daily list of five tasks.

Next, we developed a master copy of her weekly calendar. We divided each day into three segments: morning, afternoon, and evening. We subdivided the afternoons into two task sessions. Within these boxes, we reserved time for working on the list of five to-do s, study and prayer, relationship building, meetings, and developing new ministries. As we assigned tasks to various spaces on the calendar, we discovered there was more time than we thought.

The plan works. It's flexible enough to meet the demands of ministry, and it balances ministry, administration, and personal life. It can tame the big list and make it a servant of ministry rather than a tyrant.

The master calendar at the top of the page helped my colleague plan her activities.


Excerpted from The Church Leader's Answer Book by Phyllis TenElshof Copyright © 2006 by Christianity Today International. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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